By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — Events like the annual Mt. Vernon Knife Show help to nurture in young people a greater appreciation for knives as collectible works of art, said organizer Larry Hancock.
While many of the vendors and collectors at the show are older, more and more families are showing up each year, Hancock said.
This trend, he added, bodes well for the future of knife collecting in this area.
“What's been picking up the last couple years, and we're glad to see that, is we're seeing families bring kids in,” said Hancock, treasurer of the Jefferson County Custom Knife Club, which sponsors the show. “It's important to get the younger generation involved in collecting and appreciation. Otherwise, where are you going to go?”
About 255 people attended the 31st annual Mt. Vernon Knife Show, held Saturday and Sunday at the Veterans Park community building.
Thousands of knives were featured at the show, including custom, antique and current production models. Between 45 and 50 vendors participated and roughly 90 tables of merchandise were on display.
Hancock estimated the total value of the knives at the show as roughly $1 million to $1.5 million.
“There's a lot of antique USA (knives) and current production,” Hancock said. “There's people here with high dollar German knives and Italian knives.”
Hancock said there are only three other major knife shows in this region, including annual shows in St. Louis, Belleville and Bunker Hill.
“There are a lot of guys that like knives and there aren't that many shows around,” Hancock said.
Vendor Rick Hill of Maryville said he's been to every Mt. Vernon Knife Show since it started. He said it's the people involved that keep him coming back.
“The people it brings in are people that are really interested in knives,” Hill said. “The people that run the show are exceptionally good people.”
Collector Bob Rebbec of Bloomington bought a Remington knife at Saturday's show. He said he loves knives for all they can be used for.
“A knife can be a piece of art to man's oldest tool and everything in between,” Rebbec said.
Collector Eldon Autenrieth of Mt. Vernon said knives have gotten a bad reputation in recent years as dangerous weapons. But the people who collect them, he said, don't see them that way.
“They're tools. A knife is one of the original tools,” Autenrieth said.
And even though buying and selling knives was the main purpose of this weekend's show, participants also viewed it as a social gathering, said vendor Carl Becker of the Edwardsville area.
“We really enjoy this show immensely,” Becker said. “It's as much social as selling knives. We know most of the vendors here and the people and so we really enjoy the show.”
The nonprofit Jefferson County Custom Knife Club was formed in 1982. Proceeds from the show go toward the cost of putting on each year's event.